Child Protection Policy


Child Protection Policies and Procedures

St. Stephen Lutheran Church

November 2010

Purpose: To provide a safe, caring, appropriate and secure environment for children and adults in all aspects of Church life.

Theological Framework: As defined by the Virginia Synod

God’s mission and ministry in the world is the redemption and restoration of all creation (Colossians 1:20). God’s activity is to redeem what is lost, restore what is broken, and offer salvation and hope where there is transgression and despair. This policy is intended to provide a context for God’s gracious activity with scripture setting the standard of conduct in sexual matters. It must be clear that God’s restorative work is not without pain, suffering, discipline and struggle. To live the life of faith is to enter a community that does not shy away from this struggle. The goal of this policy is the restoration to wholeness for the victim of misconduct, the accused and the community of faith in which the misconduct has occurred.

The exercise of public ministry is sacred trust. Persons on the roster of public ministry are not exempt from the consequences when this sacred trust is violated. Where there is sin, there is opportunity through Christ for repentance, forgiveness and amendment of life. But forgiveness must not include denying, forgetting or diminishing the realities. Forgiveness does not include excusing the sinner from acknowledging and accepting responsibility for the behavior and its social, institutional and legal consequences.

It is our fervent belief that through the Holy Spirit and the shared wisdom and prayer of the community of believers, the redemptive activity of God can and will be accomplished.

 

Definitions:

 

Church Personnel- Any clergy, paid personnel (including Preschool Teachers and Assistants) or volunteer who is engaged in ministry or service in the church that come into contact with children in the course of their ministry.

Children- A child is defined as anyone under the age of 12

Youth- A youth is defined as anyone who is at least 12 years old, but not yet 18 years old. A youth may also be an individual who is 18 years old, but still in high school.

Safeguards for Children and Youth:

Church Personnel Screening:

1)      All Church Personnel, including volunteers working with Children and Youth, will fill out this application that authorizes a background check and acknowledges reading and understand the Child Protection policies of St. Stephen. This will include those who sit on a committee that deals with Children or Youth.

2)      The Parish Administrator will conduct a background check of all Church Personnel. This includes screening for both Criminal history and for complaints of child abuse and neglect. Any applicant who is known to have a conviction or a standing complaint for child abuse or neglect will not be permitted to work with Children or Youth. This check will be repeated every five (5) years for all Church Personnel.

3)      The Parish Administrator will keep a record of the Application and Background Check on record permanently. Any paid staff must furnish three (3) references to be checked to verify their work with children and youth.

4)      A paid Church Staff member will know any volunteer Church Personnel for six (6) months prior to beginning work with Children and Youth.

5)      The Pastor and Ministry Associate, along with the chair of the appropriate committee (Christian Education, Preschool or Youth Committee) will interview each candidate and decide on whether it is appropriate for someone seeking to work with Children or Youth to do so.

6)      All Church Personnel will attend initial Child Protection Training before any contact with Children or Youth takes place. This training must be attended every three (3) years so that Church Personnel maintain current knowledge of Church Policy. The Parish Administrator will keep a record of this training. To view the training online, click on this link. When you have finished viewing the training, use this form to answer the questions at the end and bring it to the Parish Administrator for verification.

General Child and Youth Policies

 

Supervision

1)      All Child and Youth events ideally will be supervised by two non-related adults who have gone through the Church Personnel screening process and initial Child Protection Training. If both girls and boys are to be present, there must be at least one male and one female adult present at the event.

2)      The adult-child ratio at all children events must meet the following requirements:

Age Range Ratios (Adult: Children)
Infants 1:4
Young Toddlers 1:5
2 and 3 year olds 1:10
4 year olds 1:12
School aged (through 18) 1:20
Mixed age group Ratio for youngest child in group

3)      The adult-youth ratio at all youth events must be no greater than one adult to twenty youth (1:20).

4)      All adult supervisors need to actively monitor events to keep track of children/youth.

5)      Try to limit any one-on-one interactions between a child/youth and an adult. If possible, try to have at least two adults present for all conversations.

6)      If there is to be any one-on-one interactions between a child/youth and adult, the interaction must take place in an open space under the observation of another adult.

Consent

1)      At the beginning of the school/activity year, each child/youth needs to have a consent and information form on file that covers activities that take place as part of the regular church year. This will include consent to provide first aid treatment for any injuries occurring during those events.

2)      Any activities that might be considered dangerous, involve driving away from church property, or overnight trips, must have a separate parent signed consent form. This form will be kept on file at the church and a copy will accompany the adult in charge of the trip.

Code of Conduct

1)      Church Personnel are prohibited from the use, possession, distribution, or being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or the misuse of legal drugs while participating in or assisting with programs or activities specifically for children or youth.

2)      Church Personnel will respond to children and youth with respect, consideration and equal treatment, regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, culture or socio-economic status. Church Personnel will portray a positive role model for children and youth by maintaining an attitude of respect, patience, and maturity. They will avoid even the appearance of favoritism.

3)      Church Personnel are prohibited from dating or becoming romantically involved with a child or youth.

4)      Church Personnel are prohibited from having sexual contact with a child or youth.

5)      Church Personnel are prohibited from possessing any sexually oriented materials on church property or in the presence of children or youth except as expressly permitted as part of a pre-authorized educational program. This includes use of the Internet for any sexually oriented materials.

6)      Church Personnel are prohibited from discussing their own sexual activities, including dreams and fantasies, or discussing their use of sexually oriented or explicit materials with children or youth.

7)      Church Personnel are prohibited from dressing, undressing, bathing, or showering in the presence of children or youth.

8)      Church Personnel are prohibited from using physical punishment in any way for behavior management of children or youth. No form of physical discipline is acceptable. Physical force may only be used to stop a behavior that may cause immediate harm to the individual or to a child, youth or others.

9)      Church Personnel are prohibited from using harsh language, degrading punishment, or mechanical restraint such as rope or tape for behavior management.

10)  Church Personnel are prohibited from participating in or allowing other to conduct any hazing activities related to children’s or youth ministry or camp activities.

Area Specific Policies

Nursery-

A nursery is available for children from six (6) weeks old to seven (7) years old during church services and at other church events when appropriate.

Procedures:

1)      At least two non-related adults must be present at all times in the Nursery.

2)      A ratio of one adult to 4 children (1:4) is the minimum supervision level.

3)      There will be a sign in-sign out roster each week. Parents or Guardians will sign their children into and out of the Nursery when they drop them off and pick them up.

4)      Nursery services are offered on a first-come, first-served basis in order to maintain ratio requirements.

5)      Children cannot use the Nursery if they have signs of possible contagious illness including but not limited to the following:

a.       Colds

b.      Fever

c.       Vomiting with the previous 24 hours

d.      Other significant symptoms such as coughing, ear or nasal discharge, etc.

6)      Parents are responsible for the following when children are being dropped off for Nursery:

a.       Signing their children in and out

b.      Changing diapers (Nursery personnel will inform parents if needed)

c.       Picking up their children promptly

d.      Communicating with Nursery personnel regarding their children’s activities and behavior while in Nursery care.

7)      Outdoor play during Nursery will be at the discretion of nursery staff.

Preschool

1)      The preschool will conform to all applicable regulations as required by the Code of Virginia: Title 63.2 as pertains to Religiously Exempt Child Day Care Centers.

2)      All who are employed by the Preschool are considered Church Personnel and will be subject to this Policy.

Overnight Trips, Mission Trips, Lock-ins

1)      Travel: All travel to overnight events will occur in privately owned or rented vehicles. There must be two non-related adults in the convoy for supervision. A parent/guardian signed permission form for each child, allowing them to travel in a vehicle and receive medical treatment must be with the lead adult in each vehicle.

2)      Sleeping arrangements: Church Personnel are prohibited from sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags, tents, hotel rooms or other rooms with children or youth unless the adult is an immediate family member of all the children in the bed, sleeping bag, tent or hotel room. If there is a large, open room where everyone is sleeping, it is acceptable for several adults to sleep there.

Reporting Child Abuse

Mandated Reporting to the State: All paid Church Personnel (including the Pastor) are mandated reporters according to the Virginia Department of Social Services: “Mandated Reporting laws require that professionals who deal with children report suspicious circumstances suggestive of child maltreatment to child protective services. (Virginia Child Protection Newsletter, Volume 83)”

 

Should abuse be suspected:

1)      A report of abuse or neglect should be made to Child Protective Services of the Social Services Department at 1-800-552-7096.

2)      When a report is made, Church Personnel must disclose to the Social Service Department all the information that forms the basis of the report, including any records or reports which document their allegations.

3)      In order to disclose information beyond that stated above, the Church Personnel must secure a written release from the parent of Social Services must send a signed release or subpoena to St. Stephen Lutheran Church.

4)      Any Church Personnel needing to report abuse or neglect must report it to their supervisor immediately, unless their supervisor is involved in the abuse. A written record of the incident including the child’s name, time and date of report, person receiving the report, and all other date disclosed to the Social Services Department. Although the law permits a report to be made anonymously, Church Personnel are strongly encouraged to disclose the referral to the family.

All non-paid (volunteers) Church Personnel are not mandated reporters, but need to report suspicions of any Child Abuse to the Virginia Department of Social Services. Information about reporting will be a part of Child Protection Training.

 

Reporting within the Congregation:

Clergy Abuse

Anyone who knows or suspects the Pastor or other clergy being involved in abuse can report it in one of several ways, but the responsibility for investigation lies with the Synod Bishop.

Synod phone number: 540-389-1000

–          Synod address: P.O. Box 70 Salem, VA 24153

ELCA website: http://www.elca.org/Growing-In-Faith/Vocation/Rostered-Leadership/Leadership-Support/Safe-Place/Our-Church.aspx

 

Post Reporting Protocol:

Once a report has been made, the Bishop will follow the guidelines contained within the Statement of Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct By Members of the Clergy and Associates in Ministry as adopted by the Synod Council at its October 2000 meeting.

Abuse by others within the Congregation

The main point of contact for any known or suspected abuse against children within the congregation is the Pastor. Should the Pastor not be available, the President of the Council is the secondary point of contact. Reporting abuse within the congregation does not eliminate the need to contact the Virginia Department of Social Services to report the abuse as well. Do not report abuse to others within the congregation outside of the points of contact.